Star Trek Beyond Review Roundup: The Franchise Is Safe in Director Justin Lin’s Hands

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Photo: Paramount Pictures

Star Trek Beyond, the latest installment in Paramount's reboot of Gene Roddenberry's beloved series, has critics agreeing that while the film treads familiar territory, it's comfortable in that familiarity. The characters we've come to know and love are recognizable, but older, wiser, and a bit weary. But make no mistake: Those less invested in Star Trek canon and more interested in escaping the summer heat with a mindless spectacle will be pleased as well, as Beyond packs in plenty of action sequences and dizzying visual effects. Go for the flash-bangs, stay for the heart. 

"The new Star Trek picture — called, for no particular reason, Star Trek Beyond — is a wild ride, fast and crazy kinetic, a bombardment in the manner of the Fast and the Furious movies by the same director, Justin Lin. Of course, “fast” and “furious” are adjectives that “classic” Trek fans loved the series for not being. But in some ways it’s a relief to leave that more deliberate universe behind. The new, slavishly imitative cast members haven’t made these characters their own, and there’s an eerie quality to their attempts — as if the future will bring not just starships and teleportation but also androids replacing long-dead actors. It’s better to have a well-made, unapologetic action-adventure like this one than a creepy stab at replication." —David Edelstein, Vulture

"Not every wheel needs reinventing, and one of the abiding pleasures of Star Trek, in its old and newer iterations, lies in its balance of stubborn consistency and canny inventiveness. The characters never change, but the stakes can shift wildly from one adventure to the next. Fans love Star Trek precisely because of its episodic nature, which allows for a certain amount of variation in theme and tone. Sometimes the future of the universe hangs in the balance. Sometimes Kirk and his crew have to deal with local disputes and personnel issues. Or weird random stuff, like tribbles or Joan Collins–related time travel. Unfortunately, 21st-century big-budget action movies are made according to a more rigid template, and Beyond follows its immediate predecessors, Star Trek and Into Darkness (both directed by J. J. Abrams), in sacrificing some of the old spirit to blockbuster imperatives." — A.O. Scott, the New York Times

"Lin doesn't drop too many balls, and the actors don't just go through the motions. Elba makes a fierce villain, even when mostly buried under layers of prosthetics ... Lin pulls out all the VFX stops in the final siege at Yorktown, a sequence that shatters the rafters. Yet, Star Trek Beyond manages to knock you for a bigger loop with just the sight of one man staring at a photograph. You'll know it the moment you see it. Come to Star Trek Beyond for the pow; stay for the emotional wipeout." —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"Star Trek, as created by Gene Roddenberry, was an unapologetic expression of optimism, a vow of faith in interplanetary civic values. Its gentle spirit is something we could use more of these days, especially during summer blockbuster season, and if you can look past a degree of special-effects bombast, Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond shimmers with it — the actors, in particular, carry the essence of Roddenberry’s inclusive vision into the present ... Lin keeps this tense adventure (co-written by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, who also reprises his role as chief engineer Scotty) from stumbling over its own excess: he knows that any good Star Trek needs wit as well as spectacle." —Stephanie Zacharek, Time

"Lin's movie works best when approached as a relaxed, somewhat playful two-hour expansion of one of the old '60s episodes. Krall never quite pops as the antagonist Elba so clearly has in him to portray. But if there's one thing this franchise has taught us, across six decades, it's this: You can't always get a Khan when you want one." —Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

"I wish the entirety of Star Trek Beyond were as strong as its opening and closing reels. Pine, Quinto, Urban, and the rest are all spectacular per usual, and the scenes where they just talk to each other (or solve problems together) are far more interesting than the ones where they run and shoot at stuff. Pine has completely lost the 'I’m a cocky and entitled jerk who is destined for greatness' attitude that ruined the 2009 Star Trek. Quinto’s arc makes surprisingly moving use of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. The picture is filled with enjoyable characters and occasionally sharp dialogue, and a couple solid action scenes. It looked great in glorious IMAX 2D. For many that will be enough. But it spends too much time literally and metaphorically stranded." —Scott Mendelson, Forbes

"It’s an awful lot of plot, character, history, and future for Lin to balance, and some characters, namely Uhura and Chekov, are underserved by the scattered focus. But when Beyond soars, it hits a sweet spot of perfectly balanced stakes, momentum, character development, callbacks, music, and action, blasting at full power in particular in one memorable space-battle set piece that punches in just the right moments." —Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast

"To be fair, a Star Trek movie — this is the 13th — can’t be expected to reinvent the wheel each time. Abrams already did that once, and he did it brilliantly, casting the series with such an acute eye for the inner qualities of every Trek crew member that you almost feel as if each character should come with a little book entitled The Zen of Scotty, The Zen of Bones, etc. Yet the dimension of the original series that turned fans into lifelong cultists is that it pushed and poked boundaries ... It’s got a very familiar, old-fangled, no-mystery structure, and that’s because it’s basically the Star Trek version of an interplanetary action film, with a plot that doesn’t take you to many new frontiers. But there’s plenty of chance to hang out with a cast that audiences have — rightly — come to love." —Owen Gleiberman, Variety

"Despite an expansive universe stretched across over a dozen feature films and numerous television series, the appeal of Star Trek is pretty straightforward: a motley group of colorful characters hurtle through mini-adventures in deep space, sustained as much by their chemistry as the variety of alien civilizations in their path. The first two films in the rebooted franchise attempted to raise the stakes with various cataclysmic events threatening its cast of fresh faces, but Star Trek Beyond goes back to the television roots. Spectacular as it looks, this is a $150 million blockbuster about nothing. A lighter, funnier effort than the previous installments, Star Trek Beyond reflects a changing of the guard. With J.J. Abrams passing the baton to Justin Lin, the latest entry plays like a CGI-heavy Fast and the Furious movie set in the future, with fancy gadgetry and fast-paced showdowns taking prominence over plot." —Eric Kohn, IndieWire

"Lin directs with his foot often jammed on the accelerator, careening from one physical or aerial clash to the next, where the densely packed movie could sometimes stand to take a breath. But even if a team of four editors would normally spell trouble, the pacing, structure, and crescendos of suspense are assured, with Michael Giacchino's forceful score pumping up the action. However, there's also no shortage of intimate, character-driven moments. And while the story isn't without confusing elements, as warmongering intergalactic blitzes go, it's coherent enough." —David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Star Trek Beyond doesn’t go that far beyond what we might expect: a very decent, watchable franchise episode which is marooned for quite a long time on a distant rocky planet. There is a potent new force for evil in the form of anti-Star Fleet insurgent Krall, played by Idris Elba, although his full personality and motivation take a fair bit of time to flower ... This new movie could arguably have given Elba more to do, earlier in the picture, but it is the inter-relationship of the Enterprise’s crew which is the real source of drama. An entertaining adventure." —Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian